One of the things that I notice all the time, when conversations go south, is when someone starts talking about the other persons’ thoughts or feelings.
- “Clearly you’re not motivated at the moment”
- “I know that you are not interested in this but….”
- “I know you don’t respect me or the work we are doing”
- “Your attitude really needs some focus right now”.
What I know is this. You don’t really know what someone else is thinking or feeling. You really don’t. You think you do. But you don’t.
Think about it. When someone tells you what you’re thinking or feeling, and they are off course on their assessment. Whether they are slightly or completely wrong. How does it make you feel? How do you react when someone has summed you up – in the wrong way?
Being an expert in communication. I see this all the time. People don’t like it. It damages trust and respect. The relationship suffers.
So how do you know? This is the crazy thing. Instead of ruminating all over yourself. That is, obsessing about what is going on for them. You could ask them? I know right?!
Don’t assume anything and certainly don’t say it.
Instead, describe what you are observing. Describe their behaviours. What have you seen and what have you heard them say?
- Discuss how often they are coming in late.
- Tell them you notice them rolling their eyes in meetings and/or not maintaining eye contact.
- Let them know you have observed how they raise their voice and point their finger.
- Show them where they are missing deadlines and have poor attention to detail.
Discuss the behaviours. The things they can’t argue. Then ask them what’s going on.
It’s one of the secrets to keeping a conversation as calm and productive as possible. Not always. But it makes a big difference.
When feedback to clients, colleagues and stakeholders is based on observed behaviours instead of assumptions, it has a twofold affect.
- It helps the other person see the impact of their behaviours. Now they have tangible examples and facts.
- It makes it so much easier for the person who started the conversation. After all, you are sharing things that have been said or done. You are discussing facts. Not guessing what’s going on for them.
So the good news. You don’t need to try and work out what’s going on for them. Just ask.